Remember that stress doesn’t come from what’s going on in your life. It comes from your thoughts about what’s going on in your life. And though some things hit you harder than a heart attack an optimist laughs to forget; a pessimist forgets to laugh…

In a serendipity manner the other day my cardiologist got around to telling me that there is a problem with my heart… again.

I protested that that was impossible… I mean, I divorced that problem. She’s gone. Cost me everything. Only remnant the wicked-witch-of-the-West left behind was a jock strap inscribed: After 15 years all Stephanie left me was the other guy’s jock strap; it makes me feel big!

I even offered to pay her “smaller” husband — to keep her.

Hey, I declared, to my Doc, Fania Samuels, it was a successful exorcism.

Fania kind of sighed and laughed. We’ve known one another for nearly 25 years, before and after Stephanie stole from all of us.

Fania explained that a small part of my heart is not getting blood when I exercise.

Hmm…I said. It must be Yasmine.


Yeah, my Haitian sensation. When I think of her all my blood rushes to the head of the class. And you know us men, I shrugged. Our blood can’t be at the head of two classes – at the same time. Ask Lou. He’ll support me.

Lou is her husband, my heart surgeon. He craftily bypassed my blood pumper with at least four new on-ramps after my thumper had already snapped and snarled. There was little more than strewn electrical lines burping in the wake of Godzilla. Actually my future was suddenly more a mystery than that missing Malaysian airplane.

Lou is a superstar with a great sense of humor. And voluptuous Fania has a couple of great things, too. Which is why when I bump into the Samuels on the street from time to time I practical dismiss Lou and corral Fania.

“You know, Drew,” Lou likes to remind me. “I’m the one who saved you.”

“Yeah,…yeah…yeah…big deal…and now I’m saving my best for Fania.”


Anyway, I am the only American Fania knows who’s ever been to her native Siberian town near Tyumen. So we all get along well, even though it was Fania who got me to give up drinking — mostly. She also wanted me to give up cigar smoking…

“You’ll live longer,” Dr. Samuels proclaimed.

“You don’t actually live longer,” I scoffed. “Without bourbon AND cigars it only seems longer.”

Now more than 10 years after Lou paved my new circulation Fania is sitting across from me in her office in Northeast Philadelphia’s heavily Russian immigrant community — sort of like New York City’s Brighton Beach.

She was speaking words I really didn’t want to hear. That my stress test showed something just like all the stress in Moscow and Kiev finally revealed – that you don’t know what people are really like until they are under a lot of stress. And stress is nothing more than a socially acceptable form of mental illness.

The room got real quiet as Dr. Samuels asked me if I had been having any heart pain?

“I already told you: Yasmine.”

Shortness of breath?

“Only after sex… And I gotta tell you doc, that increase dosage in my cholesterol pills is killing my sex life.”

We’ll fix that, she said

“We will?” I smiled. “You going to run off with me and join the circus?”

You know I love my husband.

“I am only talking about the weekend. Anybody who tells you they love you for longer than the weekend is lying. Look at Stephanie Ann Middleton.”


“That’s Stephanie’s latest game-name. She re-upped with another future ex…”

Fania tried to smother a disparaging laugh. At that we looked not so much at each other, but at what each other was supposed to be talking about. But we couldn’t. So we just fell into good-hearted mirth.


It ain’t easy hearing that your heart isn’t all that romantic, but just another rapacious organ demanding all the blood you can jam down its voracious throat. But laughing makes everything easier. Somebody, probably my dear ol’ bourbon sippin’ Pappy, once said: We don’t laugh because we’re happy – we’re happy because we laugh.

Anyway, Fania – Dr. Samuels – finally ceased the bon vivant. She said that the stress test may only be 80 percent correct. Nevertheless, she was strongly suggesting I have a catheter examination.

She could schedule it within two weeks in the hospital where I always seem to end up horizontal. And if they find blockage they will unblock it with a stent. Which is what my renowned brother, Dr. Brian Strunk, and his son, Adam, both do. But I am not going to consult them. My older brother always seems to find a way to tell me it’s my fault.

But of course!

Fania was waiting unwearyingly for my response.

Like my father, I am not the best in confronting health issues. And like my father I had haughtily informed myself that I would never have a heart attack; I give them!


And let me tell you the worst time to have a heart attack is during a game of charades.

Yet to tell you the truth I am a tad annoyed about all this. It has nothing to do with fear. After all my global adventures that left me trying to figure out where I left some of my body parts I have found there is little left to worry about. I mean, fear only means the worst hasn’t happened…yet.

Perhaps I am more exasperated. Which is probably why I haven’t pedaled off to the gym in the wee early morning hours the past few days. Here I am practically on a daily hour-long diet of biking, boxing, rowing, swimming or walking.

And I am going to die anyway!

Go figure…

What am I? Just another statistic on the actuarial charts.

Nothing changes. Just like corruption, greed, politics and all duh rest of us sinners in dis planetary whorehouse.

We live. We die. Often sooner than later. And in between we get laid now and then – the so called ultimate in reverie. Almost as good as having made your last alimony payment.

Fania was still patiently awaiting. She knew I wasn’t one to yelp, like many of her patients, in a: Why me?!

We both well grasp that life is life. You march in its parade. Sometimes your life sentence gets an early parole. Sometimes rather abruptly.

Finally I uttered: “It’s amazing isn’t it? Fifty years ago there weren’t stents and bypasses and transplants and all that. And here we are, 10 years after I was all but dead, talking about something that has become a routine repair job.”

“We get some things right in medicine,” replied an appreciative Dr. Samuels.

“Like Zakki (my younger son). A modern miracle.”

“Amazing,” agreed Dr. Samuels. And then she queried me again: “So, do you want to do it?”

Hmm…Don’t you wonder sometimes why it is you feel like a dope if you laugh alone, but that’s usually how you end up crying…

The fact is there is, indeed, so much I still want to do…to keep getting drunk…laughing, loving and living life. I exhaled slowly. But I guess I gotta prioritize. First things first. I mean, whatever is happening in Kiev, and Syria and Darfur and the West Bank doesn’t seem quite as important at this very moment… now, does it?

Like my 93-year-old Big MaMa still barks: “When you have your health you have everything.”

And I plan on having most everything… and dying very healthy, in this drunken, unhealthy world. And, as always, I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints…

And dats yDrewIS on dis penal colony…

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